Featured Publication – This Poem Here by Rob Walton

Our featured publication for April is This Poem Here by Rob Walton, published by Arachne Press.

When Rob Walton went into lockdown, he didn’t know that he would also go into
mourning.  Here he writes about the life and death of his dad, and how sadness seeped
into various aspects of his life. He also manages to find cheap laughs, digs at the government, celebrations of the young and old, unashamed sentimentality and suddenly disarming moments of
tenderness.

Walton is a master of musical, looping, refrains as he gets closer and closer to the troubled heart of
things.
” Deborah Alma

This unusual collection, is, in its well-crafted way, a parcel of the sad, funny, unfair and beautiful
aspects of ordinary life… as irreverent as it is poignant, this is the ideal collection for you if you want
your deepest forebodings about the state of the UK confirmed, with a side helping of big belly
laughs.
” Kate Foley

Walton’s lines are expressed neatly and sparely, yet hold such purity and poignancy beneath them
that they stop you in your tracks.
” Jane Burn

this poem here

Christ, if I went through all the regrets
I have about my dad and the things
I could and should have done
I’d write poem after poem after book
and it would be a full collection
dissected in some online journal
or some blog and recommended
to someone’s 167 twitter followers.

God, if I went through all the regrets
I had about my dad when I was a full-grown adult
it would make an award-avoiding pamphlet
that one person would ask me to sign
and I’d spell their name wrong
even after I’d carefully asked them.

Jesus, if I were to write about the fact
my dad saw me in some strange pantomimes
and acting the goat on other stages
and even telling so-called jokes on the boards
of Kinsley Labour Club and how I regret
he never saw me reading poetry
never saw me reading poems
in celebration of him and my mum
well that

That would be a poem.
That would be this poem here.
That he’d never read.
That he’d never hear.

and in lockdown

and in lockdown
it seems perfectly reasonable
to get tearful
over the Jersey Royals
untouched and forgotten about
in the cupboard under the sink

and now the girls
have gone back to their mum’s
you’ll have the Jersey Royals
on your own
on their own
or with a bit of butter
but snide Lurpak
won’t help them pass
the lump in your throat

June 1 st

What did you do on your first day back, darling?

Lick Yusuf.

Oh, right, and what did Yusuf do?

Nothing. Him on top of Shira.

Mmm. And did Ms Key do anything about this?

Couldn’t. Twins stuck on her legs.

The Alton twins?

No, them in helper’s hair,
play with him mask.

And how do you feel about going back tomorrow?

Stay home. Watch stupid men on telly.

Prime Minister’s Questions

Are there any other countries you’d like to break?
If you grow it out a bit, would you like me to cut it into a bob?
Do you miss the good old days of racist newspaper columns?
Is the dandruff cultivated to evoke sympathy?
Will you answer the question about the inflatable Cummings?
Do you understand the difference between a million and a billion?
Who’s your favourite bully?
How about a nice lie-down?
Who’s spaffing now?
Could you tell the House which of his houses your dad is in at the moment?
Is it the Ready Brek that makes you glow inside?
Have you got Brexit done?
Do you miss the good old days of the zip wire and the flags?
Are there any other countries you’d like to break?

like in the olden days

I want my daughters’ friends to come for tea
I want to serve them uninteresting pasta
with a jar of Aldi tomato sauce
and some veggie parmesan
and maybe
I don’t know
a coke float
or an ice cream
or pretty much anything really
I just want my daughters’ friends
to come for tea

like in the olden days
you know
like in the olden days

Scunthorpe-born Rob Walton lives with his daughters in Whitley Bay.  His poetry is published by The Emma Press, Strix, Butcher’s Dog, Culture Matters, Atrium and others.  His short fiction is published in the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and New Zealand.  He collated the New Hartley Memorial Pathway text.  Twitter: @anicelad.  

This Poem Here is available to purchase from the Arachne Press website.

Featured Publication – The Significance of a Dress by Emma Lee

Our featured publication for August is The Significance of a Dress by Emma Lee, published by Arachne Press.

Nothing is unimportant in The Significance of A Dress, where next year is not the future but a question. Each refugee, suffragette or shushed voice and narrative encompassed by the poems is personal and individual, yet simultaneously universal in its reach and significance. In ‘Dismantling The Jungle’, flames form “an echo of a former life”. This vivid collection is full of such flames and echoes. Whether it’s “Each dress hangs from a noose” (‘Bridal Dresses in Beirut’) or “Everything Abdel sees is smeared, despite his glasses” (Stories from The Jungle), Emma Lee’s focus is precise, poised and packs emotional punch. Her evocative imagery is reinforced by taut lines, striking juxtapositions and intimate, moving details. The Significance of A Dress is a beautiful, powerful and haunting collection.‘ S A Leavesley

From the title page of The Significance of a Dress, Emma Lee cleverly fashions a feminist metaphor for #MeToo into uncompromising forms. These include the terrible symbol of bridal dresses hung from nooses in Beirut, signifying rapists absolved of their crimes through marrying their victims, a figure walking home in the UK uncertain whether she is safe from rape after a recent attack in the area, and further victims of rape and domestic abuse. The reader is never let go, with head dunked into the murky waters of domestic life until forced to accept Lee’s compelling argument of a grossly unequal world. The poet does this with immense skill in versification, giving her audience no option but to pay attention. This is daring, well-imagined poetry with global scope, giving voice to women from myriad backgrounds and cultures. It goes far beyond the boundaries of #MeToo, arguing the world has become one of disturbing realm of sexual inequality, in an atmosphere of constant threat. Lee’s collection addresses unfairness, advocating for those who have been denied the ability to speak for themselves.‘ Dr James Fountain

Front Cover Emma Lee

 

I saw life jackets left on the beach
Kos, Summer 2015

I asked the waiter, but he shrugged.
Later he loaded crates into the manager’s car.
She looked dead on her feet, said something
about an extra sitting at dinner.
But there weren’t any new guests.
It was my two weeks in the sun.
I’d eaten nothing but lettuce
for weeks to look OK in my bikini.

The waiter stopped flirting, went quiet.
I followed him to the derelict hotel where tents
had sprung up like mushrooms overnight.
He didn’t want to talk. I didn’t push it.
You learn that at a call centre. Some people
think you’re a machine and they just poke buttons.
Others, you’re the only person they’ve talked to all day.
I’d only come to sunbathe
so helping give out food didn’t seem much.

One mother told me men drifted around
and she didn’t think her daughters were safe.
After their journey, they didn’t want confinement
to a crowded room. I became a chaperone.
I taught them hopscotch on the beach.
Their laughter such a strange sound.
Paperwork’s slow at the best of times.
I left my euros for the hotel to pass on.
I hope it helped. I bought them sanitary pads.
People don’t think about that:
their bodies capable of creating life.

Previously published in The Morning Star

 

The significance of a dress
(Refugee camp northern Iraq)

Even if home is makeshift and her carriage is a borrowed
pair of shoes that dance over gravel baked in the desert heat,
a bride still wants to feel special, at least for one day.
No one can afford to buy when twenty neighbours share
a latrine and there’s a constant vigil against disease.
Tulin, named after a daughter, offers gown hire, make-up
and hairstyling that will withstand humid evenings.
“I don’t ask how old they are,” says the beautician. A mural
outside shows a girl in a white gown holding a teddy bear.
The future is tomorrow. Next year is a question.
A wedding is a party, a welcome, a sign of hope.
The dresses sparkle with sun-reflected diamante
but the gravel paths of the camp leave the hems stained.

Previously published in “A Scream of Many Colours” (Poetry Space 2018)

 

The Bridal Dresses in Beirut

Each dress hangs from a noose.
One is plain satin with scalloped lace,
another an orgy of tulle,
dreamy organza with applique flowers
hanging from wire
strung between palm trees.
One is short, a shift with a tulip skirt,
the sort of dress picked
in a hurry to satisfy a shotgun
or Article 522.
The breeze breathes through them,
bullies the dresses into ghosts,
brides with no substance,
angels bereft of their voices.

[Part of a protest against Article 522 of the Lebanese Penal Code which exonerates rapists if they marry their victim. The Article has now been repealed.]

Previously published in Dreamcatcher (UK) and Red Earth Review (USA)

 

How a Dress Lost its Sparkle

“Why did they discard their clothes on the beach?”
he repeats as if another asking will adjust the answer
to one he wants to hear. He thinks mothers should launder

their own children’s clothes. He’s not placated by the answer
that discarded clothes are washed, dried and recycled
for the next boatload, for the next and the next.

Above him is Arabella Dorman’s “Suspended”,
discarded clothing gathered from beaches held
by wires and illuminated by a spherical lamp

that alternates between yellow and bright
white light, sun and moon. The clothes are flat,
no longer needing three dimensions to cover bodies.

Amongst them is a long-sleeved, ankle length pink dress
to fit a five-year-old, covered in a layer of gold gauze.
A special occasion dress that sparkles as the light changes.

A dress that doesn’t warm on cold nights, that shows dirt
and sweat, that absorbs salt water and fears, that if pulled
over a mouth would hide the bit lip that stops tears.

It won’t launder without soap and what does its wearer wear
while it’s washed? A closer look reveals a tide mark of salt,
an obstinate, rusty stain. Mementos no one wants to keep.

[“Suspended” by Arabella Dorman is an art installation hosted by Leicester Cathedral during the Journeys Festival.]

Previously published in The Bosporus Review

 

Emma Lee was born in South Gloucestershire and now lives in Leicestershire. Her poems, short stories and articles have appeared in many anthologies and magazines worldwide. Emma’s most recent collection is “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, UK 2015).  She has performed her work at The Poetry Cafe in London, all three Leicestershire universities, at LCFC, the Jam Factory in Oxford, Hatherley Manor in Cheltenham, amongst other venues. She’s also read poems for BBC Radio and EAVA FM and joined panels organised by the University of Leicester’s Sociology, Communications and Media department to talk about artistic responses to the refugee crisis arising from her co-editing of “Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” and curation of Journeys in Translation. Currently she is on the committee of Leicester Writers’ Club and the steering group for the Leicester Writers’ Showcase. Emma Lee also reviews for five poetry magazines, and is Poetry Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib. She blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com.

The Significance of a Dress is available to purchase from the Arachne Press website.